First post is at 4:04 pm EST.
Late February is an interesting time: we are still in winter, but there are signs of spring starting to appear. The days have lengthened -- the amount of daylight, and the strength of the sun, is equal now to what we get in October -- and there are signs of impending rebirth everywhere. This is the case in the natural world, but it is also evident in the world of Thoroughbred horse racing, where foaling season is in full swing on the breeding farms across the country. Winter is a time of death, it is true, with yesterday's passing of the great racehorse, and all-time great stallion, A.P. Indy, a baleful reminder of what waits for all of us, but it is worth noting that it will not be long until we are surrounded by rebirth, when the earth practically sings with new life, and the ultimate sign of spring and renewal, the Kentucky Derby, is upon us.
There is no massive, headlining stakes race today, no Grade 1 race, but there are quite a few bettable stakes, and they are spread across the country. We will take a look at as many of them as we can, focusing, as always, on the ones that offer particular sporting interest or wagering potential. We expect fast dirt and firm turf everywhere, as the weather is pretty quiet across the continent. Let's go.
Gulfstream Park, Race 9, 4:04 pm ET
Grade 3 World of Trouble Sprint Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up
Eight older horses will dash six furlongs in the World of Trouble. The field is highlighted by 7/5 morning line favorite 2-Lasting Legacy, a late-running sprinter who has, since being moved to the Jason Servis barn last summer, run three very good and very consistent races, earning Beyer Speed Figures of 103, 101, and 103 in those three starts. Just on the basis of the figs, he's going to be tough to beat, as the rest of the field has just one total triple-figure Beyer, and that was in a race back in 2018.
We spent some time trying to find a way to beat Lasting Legacy, primarily by looking at the race through the lens of pace: as a stretch runner, he needs a legitimate early pace to set up his late charge. If he doesn't get that, he will have a hard time passing the pacesetters in the race's later stages.
But we think there will be a fast early pace in here: Servis has entered another horse, 4-Admiral Lynch, who has a lot of natural speed, and who is coming off a wire-to-wire win in an allowance race at Penn National. We would not go so far as to call Admiral Lynch a rabbit, but we do think that he is in the race to prevent the kind of dawdling early pace that would compromise Lasting Legacy's chances. That makes Lasting Legacy the pick; we think he mows down the rest of the field late. We will bet him to win. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 9, $50 to win on 2-Lasting Legacy.
Aqueduct, Race 8, 4:50 pm ET
$100,000 Haynesfield Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, New York-breds 4 & Up
We will not make this an official play, because 1-Mr. Buff is 4/5 on the morning line, and figures to go off even shorter. We do not suggest betting horses to win at 2/5, as the risk is greater than the reward. There's an old railbird saying we like, and it applies here: "If you have the five, why do you need the two?"
Mr. Buff would be the likeliest winner in the race on a fair track, but if the dirt at the Big A plays today like it did yesterday, when it favored speed pretty significantly, and if Mr. Buff goes off anywhere near his morning line odds, then he is worth a massive win bet. He is naturally much, much faster than the other horses in the race, which means he will get the lead, and should do so pretty easily. From there, he will not be caught: both his natural ability and the Aqueduct racing surface will carry him home on the front end. Like we said, don't bet him if he's 1/5, but on the off chance he's around even money, he's worth a wager, because he is as close to a cinch as you'll see in a long time.
Gulfstream Park, Race 11, 5:04 pm ET
$75,000 Any Limit Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3-year-old fillies
There's a pretty nondescript field of eight going to the post in the Any Limit, and we are going to try a big price here: it's 3-Yesterdayoncemore. She is making her first career start on dirt -- she has raced exclusively on grass and synthetic -- and her recent form is poor. But she has a pedigree that suggests that she may like dirt: She is by star Coolmore stallion No Nay Never, who was a turf runner himself and who is known for producing turf runners, but who has a pretty traditional American dirt-forward pedigree. She is also trained by Patrick Biancone, who has incredibly good stats with horses switching from turf to dirt and going from a route to a sprint (33% and 27% win rates, respectively). She is 12-1, and may be an even bigger price at post time. We will bet her to win, with a small place bet thrown in. The bets: Gulfstream Park, Race 11, $15 to win/$5 to place on 3-Yesterdayoncemore.
Santa Anita Park, Race 5, 5:29 pm ET
Grade 2 Buena Vista Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
Santa Anita has been plagued during the current meeting by short fields, with far, far too many races having six or fewer entrants, so it's good to see that the Buena Vista, which is their featured race this afternoon, and the only Grade 2 in North America today, drew a field of eleven. It's a good betting race, featuring older females going a mile on the sod.
It's also probably the only race today across the country that features a real star: that's the Brazilian-bred filly on the inside, 1-Jolie Olimpica, who is undefeated in four career starts, and who will run for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. She won her north American debut in very impressive fashion, winning the 5 1/2 furlong, Grade 3 Las Cienegas Stakes at Santa Anita on January 11. She won that race almost ridiculously easily, under a hand ride, and today, at a mile distance that should suit her better, we are expecting something very, very special. She has a eye-popping turn of foot; look for her to stalk the leaders, and seize control of the race when the field turns for home. She's 8/5 on the morning line, and may go off a bit shorter; we will bet her anyway, as she looks like a potential superstar in the making. Sit back and enjoy this one. The bet: santa Anita, Race 5, $75 to win on 1-Jolie Olimpica.
Oaklawn Park, Race 9, 6:09 pm ET
$125,000 Downthedustyroad Breeders Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Arkansas-bred 3-year-old Fillies
This is another Oaklawn stakes race that drew a nice field: eleven 3-year-old state-bred fillies line up for the Downthedustyroad. 9-Bye Bye J is a strong play: she has been bouncing back and forth between Arkansas-bred and open company, winning the state-bred races, and then finding the much, much deeper waters of open company a bit too much for her.
Today she is again facing state-breds, and we think she can handle this field. She has a good stalking style, and should get a good trip from her outside post position. She will have her first start today for new trainer Steve Asmussen, and that is a positive for us, as Asmussen is the leading trainer at Oaklawn Park. She's also coming off a layoff, with today her first race since May, but Asmussen is good in that spot, with a 21% win rate, and her morning works suggest she is ready for a return to the races. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 9, $40 to win on 9-Bye Bye J.
That's all for today. Enjoy the races, and, as always, good luck at the windows.